A new ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court appears to make it more difficult for people with long-standing green card status to avoid deportation after being convicted of a crime. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court upheld the deportation of a man to Jamaica thanks to a controversial change to the law known as the “stop-time rule.”

In general, someone with permanent residency status (commonly known as having a “green card”) who is convicted a crime is at risk of being deported by U.S. immigration authorities. However, their removal from the country can be canceled if:

  1. The immigrant has lived in the U.S. continuously for at least seven years, and
  2. They were not convicted of certain major felonies

This exception allows many permanent residents, many of whom have lived in this country for decades, from being deported from the U.S. for minor crimes. But a 1996 change to immigration law added the “stop-time rule,” which stops adding time to a permanent resident’s clock. The rule can be triggered by committing a crime.

The facts behind the ruling

The man in this case was born in Jamaica but lived in the U.S. most of his life after arriving in 1989. He was convicted of assault and a weapons charge in 1996, and drug possession in 2007 and 2008. In 2017, immigration authorities declined to cancel his deportation on the theory that he was charged with assault months before his seventh anniversary as a lawful U.S. resident. His case has been tied up in appeals since.

The Supreme Court’s ruling upheld the lower court rulings as argued by the federal government. The government also argued in the alternative that the man’s deportation should not be cancelled because his assault conviction would bar him from entry into the U.S., if he had not already been admitted.

Don’t give up hope

This ruling could complicate things for you if you are facing removal due to a criminal conviction. But you should not give up. Instead, speak to an immigration attorney as soon as possible.